Bark River-Harris Girls Hoops Rolling Into February on 10-Game Win Streak

By John Vrancic
Special for

February 1, 2024

HARRIS — The Bark River-Harris girls basketball team has been enjoying a successful season with 10 straight victories and a 12-1 overall record to show for it.

Upper PeninsulaPlaying at Escanaba High School, this fall, however, was a new experience for the exchange student from Italy. The Broncos also need only to look back to mid-January to find this season’s biggest highlight to date.

BR-H overcame a 21-point third-quarter deficit to stun neighboring Escanaba 66-63 in a home nonconference match-up Jan. 19.

Senior guard Nina Bower drained a 23-foot jump shot from the left wing on a pass from junior Marissa Ives at the final buzzer, enabling the Broncos to secure that victory.

“Marissa gave me a beautiful pass,” Bower said. “I had no choice but to put it up. Coach (Matt Richer) told us going into overtime was better than turning the ball over. We beat them pretty good the first time (62-47 at Escanaba) and kind of expected to do that again.

“We had an amazing crowd, but haven’t had a game this close. It was a tournament-like atmosphere. We were frustrated at halftime because we hadn’t been playing up to what we could. Although, I think we’ve been playing well together overall and our communication has been good for sure.”

The Broncos’ only loss took place Dec. 11 at Menominee, where they dropped a 64-48 decision.

“We learned if we don’t play together, we can be beaten,” Bower said. “We also learned to overcome adversity.”

The Broncos look to match up most with Munising (11-1) at the top of the Skyline Central Conference Large-schools division this season. They face off Feb. 23.

Bark River-Harris will then attempt to take back the Division 3 District title. The Broncos defeated Menominee 37-33 to clinch the District championship in 2022, but fell to Gladstone 49-44 in overtime in a District Semifinal a year ago.

Senior teammate Lauren Zawada (center) muscles her way to the basket.Bower is averaging 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals a game. Senior Lauren Zawada, with an 18-point average, is the team’s leading scorer. She also averages 12 rebounds, five steals and four assists.

“We had kind of a rough start (against Escanaba),” Zawada said. “Things weren’t working out. They’ve improved from the first time we played them. At halftime, we didn’t know how we were going to get back up. We got a little more aggressive and tightened up our defense. Once we got within single digits, our crowd really got into it.

“As seniors we knew this would be the last time we’d play Esky. They have very good players and coaches. This is kind of a feather in our hat.”

BR-H trailed 42-21 early in the third quarter before starting its comeback.

“Coach talked to us at halftime,” senior McKenzie Hoffmeyer said. “We needed to rebound better and work as a team. That was the big highlight of the season. This is the first time we’ve beaten them twice in the same season. They’re a tough team. I think that game will keep us going for a while.”

“At Menominee we just weren’t working as a team, but knew as long as we worked as a team we’d be okay. We’ve been finding the open person and working the ball for high-percentage shots. We need to work on our rebounding and box out more.”

Hoffmeyer averages 17 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.

The Broncos have followed up that Escanaba victory with big wins against Rapid River and Crystal Falls Forest Park and defeated Marquette on Monday 38-32.

“We have to work on our attitude against other teams,” Zawada said. “We also need to work on not getting down on ourselves. We’ve been playing together for so long. Things are starting to click.”

John VrancicJohn Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS (Top) Bark River-Harris senior McKenzie Hoffmeyer (23) drives past a Marquette defender during her team’s 38-32 win Monday. (Middle) Senior teammate Lauren Zawada (center) muscles her way to the basket. (Photos courtesy of Mitch Vosburg/Escanaba Daily Press.)

Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Girls District Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 4, 2024

The MHSAA will conclude this 2023-24 winter season with girls basketball, and every unforgettable run we’ll talk about during that third weekend in March begins this week as more than 700 teams across Michigan chart their course for East Lansing.

MI Student AidDistrict play will tip off tonight, with 128 brackets emptying into next week’s Regionals and then, eventually, the Semifinals at Breslin Center on March 21.

We always switch up our “Breslin Bound” format just a bit once the MHSAA Tournament starts, as last week’s most intriguing results below are followed this time by glances at three District brackets of note in each division. Host sites are bolded, and teams playing in those brackets are listed in order of how they stacked up by Michigan Power Rating (MPR) when seeding was announced Feb. 25, with the top seeds listed first.

Everything you could want to know this week about tickets, brackets and more can be found on the Girls Basketball page. To watch any of several games online, visit the NFHS Network.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. Grand Blanc 45, Midland Dow 37 – In a winner-take-all for the Saginaw Valley League title, Grand Blanc (17-4) clinched it for the first time by handing the Chargers (19-3) their only conference loss.

2. Frankenmuth 43, Lansing Catholic 36 – In one of the most impressive weeks for any team statewide all season, Frankenmuth (20-2) won this rematch of last year’s Division 2 championship game, before defeating Detroit Edison 63-58 two days later.

3. Kent City 43, Morley Stanwood 33 – Morley Stanwood (17-4) had finished a game ahead of Kent City (and two others) in the Central State Activities Association during the league season, but Kent City (18-4) emerged with this tournament championship win.

4. Colon 51, Mendon 47 – The Magi (20-2) finished an outright championship in the Southern Central Athletic Association West by edging the runner-up Hornets (19-3).

5. Belleville 54, Howell 46 – The Tigers (19-2) added to their perfect run through the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East with this win over West champion Howell (15-7) for the overall league title.

Districts at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:



No. 1 Rockford (21-1), No. 2 Cedar Springs (17-3), Muskegon (16-4), Muskegon Mona Shores (12-9), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (9-11), Greenville (6-14).

Reigning Division 1 champion Rockford has followed up last year’s 28-1 season with similar flawlessness, its only loss to East Kentwood on Jan. 19 – and the Rams avenged it a month later on the way to winning the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red outright. O-K Green champ Muskegon certainly would provide a challenge if they were to meet again Wednesday – Rockford won their Dec. 15 game 70-39, but that was nearly three months ago. Cedar Springs on the other side of the bracket was the runner-up in the O-K Gold, with its only two losses over the last 15 games to league champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Mona Shores also is on Cedar Springs’ side of the bracket and can’t be overlooked.


No. 1 South Lyon East (17-5), No. 2 Salem (14-7), Canton (17-5), Plymouth (14-8), South Lyon (18-3), Northville (5-17).

This might be one of the most competitive Districts in any division, with host Salem coming off a run to the Division 1 Semifinals a year ago. The Rocks split with both Canton and Plymouth this season, with Canton finishing best of the three in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West, tying for second place. Two losses over their final three games dissolved Canton’s league title changes, but a Feb. 9 win over Salem sticks out among the team’s February work. Those two and Plymouth are on one side of the bracket, with Lakes Valley Conference co-champion South Lyon East and third-place South Lyon joined by Northville on the other side. East won both meetings with its rival, by 12 and then six points.


No. 1 Belleville (19-2), No. 2 Saline (18-4), Wayne Memorial (14-6), Ypsilanti Lincoln (11-11), Ypsilanti Community (12-9).

Every team in this District has a .500 record or better, and KLAA East champ Belleville is No. 4 overall in Division 1 MPR after the regular season with its losses to Mason (Ohio) and Division 2 contender Detroit Edison. The Tigers have been eliminated by Saline the last five seasons and would see the Hornets in the championship game Friday. But Saline must advance past Wayne, which owns a streak of six straight District titles and no doubt would look forward to a third matchup with Belleville after losing the first two by 11 and 28 points, respectively. Saline has won 11 of its last 12 games, its only defeat during that time from KLAA West champ Howell.


Ada Forest Hills Eastern

No. 1 Grand Rapids West Catholic (21-1), No. 2 Grand Rapids Catholic Central (16-6), Ada Forest Hills Eastern (1-21), Grand Rapids Christian (2-19), Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy (5-16).

A West Catholic/Catholic Central rematch Friday is one of the most anticipated rematches of the week, as West Catholic won their regular-season meeting 60-54 on Dec. 29 at Cornerstone University. West Catholic’s only loss of the season game two days earlier, to Rockford, and the Falcons lost only once during the 2022-23 season as well – to eventual Division 2 champion Lansing Catholic in a Semifinal at Breslin Center. West Catholic also defeated GRCC 67-49 in last year’s District Final, but the Cougars should be riding high coming off a 45-41 win over Williamston (17-5) last week, the latest of a 14-2 run.


No. 1 Chelsea (18-4), No. 2 Williamston (17-5), Haslett (15-7), Pinckney (10-11), Fowlerville (8-14).

Chelsea’s eight-game winning streak included avenging two of its defeats, against Dexter and Tecumseh, on the way to sharing the Southeastern Conference White championship with the latter. The Bulldogs have won three straight District championships, but also have the tougher side of the bracket with Haslett the Wednesday opponent if the Vikings get past Pinckney tonight. Haslett played a loaded schedule again this winter, which included a pair of league losses to Williamston – and three straight defeats in December by five points or fewer. The Hornets similarly loaded up the slate with contenders, and their only loss since falling to Chelsea 38-35 on Jan. 3 was to Grand Rapids Catholic Central.


No. 1 Lansing Catholic (17-5), No. 2 Portland (19-2), Lake Odessa Lakewood (11-11), Hastings (5-17), Charlotte (3-17).

This is also expected to end in another high-powered matchup, with the Capital Area Activities Conference White co-champs anchoring both sides of the bracket. The reigning Division 2 champion Cougars won the first matchup with Portland, 62-34 on Jan. 9, but the Raiders rebounded to win the rematch 51-44 on Feb. 13. That one was at Portland, and this one would be too – but Lansing Catholic is plenty battle-tested with its other defeats this season to Rockford, Frankenmuth (20-2), Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard (22-0) and Detroit Renaissance (19-3). The Raiders lost their regular-season finale to Williamston, 45-39, but surely will be ready to bounce back for this week’s opportunity.

Detroit Cass Tech's Ari Parker steps up to launch a 3-pointer during her team's Detroit Public School League final against Renaissance on Feb. 18.


Harbor Springs, Manistique or Menominee (Non-traditional – top line hosts)

No. 1 Harbor Springs (20-2), No. 2 Bark River-Harris (20-2), Gladstone (14-8), Menominee (12-10), Manistique (7-13).

Because of the distance between these possible opponents, this is one of the non-traditional Districts in the tournament this season. Harbor Springs is the anticipated championship game host as it enters riding a 16-game winning streak that included avenging one of its two losses, to Elk Rapids, to share the Lake Michigan Conference title with the Elks. On the other side, Bark-River Harris is coming off a 54-51 loss to Ishpeming (21-1) last week, but that was the Broncos’ first defeat since Dec. 11 to Menominee. Bark River-Harris was stopped in its first District game a year ago by Gladstone, and they are set to meet Wednesday with Gladstone coming off a Great Northern Conference championship. Menominee was third in the GNC and has won eight of its last nine games – and Harbor Springs must be cautious if the Maroons get past Manistique tonight.


No. 1 Ovid-Elsie (19-2), No. 2 St. Charles (20-2), New Lothrop (15-7), Ithaca (7-15), Chesaning (7-14).

Ovid-Elsie, St. Charles and New Lothrop all finished among the top 20 statewide in Division 3 MPR, and New Lothrop even jumped ahead of St. Charles during the week after seeds were announced. Ovid-Elsie was first and New Lothrop second in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference – the Marauders winning their matchups 53-46 and 52-37 – and they would meet again Wednesday if New Lothrop gets past the host Yellowjackets tonight. St. Charles won a Mid-State Activities Conference that included five teams with 12 or more victories, and the Bulldogs’ only losses were to Hemlock in a regular-season opener and Division 2 Midland Bullock Creek. St. Charles has 11 and 18-point wins over Division 4 contender Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (19-3).


No. 1 Hemlock (17-5), No. 2 Sanford Meridian (20-1), Saginaw Valley Lutheran (12-10), Beaverton (11-11), Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy (8-12), Pinconning (3-18).

The reigning Division 3 champion Huskies have readied themselves for another run at the title. They are coming off two losses last week, but those were to Division 1 Saginaw Heritage (12-10) and Division 2 Freeland (19-3), and Hemlock’s other defeats were to Division 1 Midland Dow (19-3) and Division 2 Frankenmuth (20-2) and Goodrich (22-0). On the other side of the bracket, Meridian certainly has circled this week after losing to Hemlock 54-45 in last year’s District to finish 20-2. The Mustangs defeated Heritage by a bucket Feb. 17, and similar to Hemlock lost to Freeland this season by only six points. Beaverton and Valley Lutheran are potential challengers that must win tonight to meet the top seeds.


Auburn Hills Oakland Christian

No. 1 Clarkston Everest Collegiate (14-4), No. 2 Dryden (15-7), Genesee Christian (13-9), Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (10-6), Auburn Hills Oakland Christian (10-11).

Everest enters this week off a pair of notable wins, defeating Bloomfield Hills Roeper (18-2) last week after winning the Catholic High School League’s St. Anne Tournament against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (15-4) – which had defeated the Mountaineers twice in league play. Everest this week will start with either Our Lady or Genesee Christian – Everest defeated Genesee Christian 43-42 on Jan. 4. The Soldiers actually moved up to second in this District in MPR during the week after seeds were announced, with all of their losses to opponents that have won at least 13 games. Dryden lines up similarly after tying for second in the North Central Thumb League Stars – all of its losses came to teams that have won at least 12 games. the Cardinals have made a big jump from winning four games only two seasons ago.

Felch North Dickinson, L’Anse or Ishpeming (Non-traditional – top line hosts)

No. 1 Ishpeming (21-1), No. 2 Baraga (18-4), L’Anse (10-12), Crystal Falls Forest Park (8-14), Felch North Dickinson (8-14).

This is another District with some distance between opponents – about half the Upper Peninsula – but that will be reduced to 59 miles Friday if seeds play out and Ishpeming hosts Baraga. The Hematites finished 5-10 only three seasons ago but have been building toward this with 12 and 16 wins the last two seasons and their only loss this winter to Division 2 Negaunee (21-1) – after Ishpeming had defeated the Miners a month earlier. Ishpeming also has a 70-43 win Feb. 13 over Baraga, the reigning Division 4 runner-up. But that’s the only blemish on the Vikings’ schedule over their last 13 games, a run that’s seen them avenge an earlier loss in handing Lake Linden-Hubbell (21-1) its only defeat.


No. 1 Morenci (17-3), No. 2 Pittsford (17-5), Waldron (15-7), Jackson Christian (9-13), North Adams-Jerome (3-16).

The host Bulldogs are Tri-County Conference champions, and like Ishpeming (above) have been building up to this winning three games only three seasons ago. Morenci this winter swept Adrian Lenawee Christian and Petersburg Summerfield, the teams that eliminated the Bulldogs in the District the last two years. They may have to contend Wednesday with Waldron, which finished third in the Southern Central Athletic Association East won by Pittsford. Pittsford defeated the Spartans 34-26 on Thursday to finish that league title run, and in doing so avenged a defeat to Waldron from Feb. 13. The Wildcats will try to capitalize on that momentum as they seek their first District title since the Class D championship run of 2016.'s weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a division within the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTOS (Top) Bark River-Harris's Marissa Ives (1) drives to the basket while being defended by Ishpeming's Mya Hemmer (14) and Jenna Maki (1) during the Hematites 54-51 win last week. (Middle) Detroit Cass Tech's Ari Parker steps up to launch a 3-pointer during her team's Detroit Public School League final against Renaissance on Feb. 18. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by Olivia B. Photography.)